The long wait is over. Four, scratch that, five years without Olympic basketball has come to a close.
There will be no more division, but rather unison. Players across the NBA, both young and old, playing or not, will stand in support for the beloved Team U.S.A.
For one month in the short hot Summer, the United States Men’s National Team will take center stage. Led by a few veterans and supported by a plethora of young talent, they will attempt to conquer one of the most coveted awards in sports: Olympic gold.
The road will be tough, yes, but one to look forward to nonetheless. It’s a pathway that has been conquered by a countless amount of U.S. Olympic-winning teams prior to this year. And while this men’s squad certainly has a few returning names, the 2021 team will be nothing like its predecessors.
The highlight of this year’s roster is none other Brooklyn Nets star forward Kevin Durant. Deemed by many to be the current best player in the world, “KD” will be making his 3rd appearance at the Olympic level for the National Team. Durant won gold with Team U.S.A. in both 2012 and 2016, leading his country in scoring in both appearances. He ranks second all time on the National Team’s scoring list (311) behind Carmelo Anthony (336) who played for the National Team in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016.
Among some of the most notable rookies to the Olympics are the Celtics‘ own Jayson Tatum, Phoenix’s Devin Booker and Portland’s Damian Lilliard. The rest of the roster includes: Bam Adebayo (Miami), Bradley Beal (Washington), Jerami Grant (Detroit), Jrue Holiday (Milwaukee), Zach Lavine (Chicago) and Khris Middleton (Milwaukee).
The Coaching Staff
The coaching staff features legendary head coach Gregg Popovich at the helm of operations. Popovich has claimed five NBA Championships as the coach of the San Antonio Spurs and has the most consecutive winning seasons in the history of the NBA (22).
“I’m happy for the selected players and looking forward to having the opportunity to work with this wonderful group when practice gets underway on July 6 in Las Vegas,” stated Popovich to the media. “I’m excited to represent the United States in our quest to earn a gold medal in Tokyo.”
“Pop” will receive help from assistant coaches Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce and Jay Wright. Kerr serves as the head current coach of the Golden State Warriors and has won a total of three championships in his tenure. The well-respected figure also played alongside Michael Jordan in the 90’s and captured three titles with the Chicago Bulls. He then went on to play for Popovich and the Spurs during the turn of the century, winning two titles in the process.
Pierce was fired from his job as the Atlanta Hawks Head Coach after an un-ideal start to this year’s basketball season. Wright has won two national championships as the head coach of the Villanova Wildcats.
Despite training camp being scheduled to kick off on July 6, Team U.S.A won’t play it’s first game of the preliminary round until July 25, when it takes the court against France. The French National Team defeated the United States by a score of 89-79 in the quarterfinal of FIBA 2019. France ultimately took home the bronze in the tournament, whereas as the United States went home empty-handed. And while much of the current Team U.S.A. roster did not play in 2019, one has wonder if revenge will be on the Americans’ minds come gameday.
Team U.S.A.’s second game will be against Iran on July 28th, followed by an undecided opponent on the final day of the month. The Olympic squad will also play a total of five exhibition games prior to the qualifying round of the tournament. Among those opponents will be Nigeria (July 6), Australia (July 12 and 16), Argentina (July 13) and Spain (July 18).
The General Expectations
The general expectations are clear: gold or bust.
It’s been the same way every year for Team U.S.A., and this year should be no different. The roster is respectable and the coaching is simply the best. K.D. will lead the way and the young stars will follow suit. Nothing more, nothing less.
And while this year’s Olympic talent isn’t the best we’ve seen, it’s good enough to take home the sport’s highest honors.
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